The vow of poverty forbids you to have almost any posessions. However, grafts (and symbionts) are described as "Not magic items, but behaving very similarly". (Despite being listed under magic items in most/all books)

Would they count as posessions? Could a creature get grafts without breaking his vow of poverty, ignoring the money he needed to buy the grafts in the first place?


3 Answers 3


Ultimately, everything in this answer is going to be at least somewhat speculative; Book of Exalted Deeds does not address the question of grafts at all. Reasonably, some will feel that this is rules-lawyering and abusing loopholes in a holy vow and that’s just not how things work—and they may well be right, since both Book of Exalted Deeds as well as external developer commentary suggests that, basically, if you have to ask, the answer is no.

So just, ya know, fair warning: if you are asking “should I take Vow of Poverty?” the answer is no.


A creature with grafts could take Vow of Poverty and (probably) keep them

Upon taking the vow, a creature must donate all of their worldly possessions to charity. But an already-extant graft isn’t a “possession” per se, it’s a body part and a creature should no more have to remove a graft than they have to remove an arm. This probably does necessarily mean waiting to take the vow until you have managed to procure some grafts, which means missing out on bonus feats—but then, there are very few good exalted feats anyway, and Vow of Poverty gives more than enough to get them all anyway.

A creature could not have a graft surgically applied to them after vowing

This is pretty straightforward: applying a graft costs money: even if a friend is doing it for you, they need to use expensive material that could be donated to charity. The Vow of Poverty thus demands that they are donated to charity, and not doing so and allowing them to be used for your benefit is a violation of the vow.

A creature with Vow of Poverty can get a graft magically...

...or, at least, can so long as they can navigate the alignment conflicts with that. Fiends of corruption and sibriexes (an obyrith, which is a type of demon) from Fiend Folio, as well as the aptly-named demonic graft machine artifact from Book of Vile Darkness, have the ability to magically apply grafts to creatures. This process costs them nothing, and so there is no part of it that could be donated to charity. So really, it does not break the vow at all.

The problem is that the vow is an exalted feat, which means maintaining exalted status, that is, better-than-Good status. Accepting gifts from fiends may well cost you your exalted status on its face, and thus kill the vow. But, if the DM agrees that circumstances permit an exalted creature to do this while staying exalted, this could get you a new graft after taking the Vow of Poverty.

A creature with Vow of Poverty who receives a graft against their will...

...is ambiguous in the extreme. The game is replete with examples of creatures failing requirements and losing features for things outside their control, which means the vow may very well be broken even if the creature who took it never intended to gain a graft. But it might instead be considered similar to the situation with magically gaining a graft, but without the alignment concerns. Which it is, we do not know because Book of Exalted Deeds does not really address it directly. Entirely up to the DM to sort out, probably on a case-by-case basis.


Magic of Eberron gives symbionts a treasure value. It doesn’t cover the symbionts in Fiend Folio but they would presumably be the same. This can make for an argument that you cannot have them. On the other hand, if Magic of Eberron is not in play, then nothing says they’re worth money, so you could maybe make an argument for keeping them, akin to an animal companion. But animal companions are a class feature; symbionts may be more similar to owning a regular horse—which a creature cannot do with Vow of Poverty.

Daelkyr half-bloods, also from Magic of Eberron, may be able to make a case for keeping their personal symbiont: it’s a free part of their racial features, and they suffer and die without it.

  • \$\begingroup\$ For graft-after-vow, what if you don't "allow" them anything? If your ally-but-maybe-not-a-friend manages to knock you out against your will, and you wake up with a new pair of wings, then you weren't the one making the decision in the first place. (I wouldn't try to sleaze this as a player with VoP, but I've seriously considered it as a party member of someone who had the feat.) \$\endgroup\$
    – Ben Barden
    Commented Oct 5, 2017 at 13:29
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    \$\begingroup\$ @BenBarden That sounds like a pretty (ahem) evil thing to do. Anyway, keep in mind that D&D has a quasi-Kantian moral outlook in that it doesn't matter if a creature committed a violation knowingly or unknowingly if the violation is nonetheless committed. In short, getting grafted wings against one's will is still getting grafted wings and a violation—a strict DM would say lose the vow, a less strict DM would require the ol' hackety hack! or lose the vow, and a typical human would say, "What are you fools doing?" \$\endgroup\$ Commented Oct 5, 2017 at 13:47
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    \$\begingroup\$ @BenBarden That basically goes under the same heading as gaining the graft magically, in my mind: maybe, if the DM agrees that the circumstances are such that neither vow nor exalted status as a whole is violated, that could conceivably work. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Commented Oct 5, 2017 at 14:26
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    \$\begingroup\$ @KRyan fair ...though having nonconsensual surgery inflicted on you by allies-who-are-not-friends seems to me less likely to run afoul of Exalted alignment issues than making literal deals with devils (and is more likely to come up in many games). Would you be willing to adjust your answer a bit to address the issue? \$\endgroup\$
    – Ben Barden
    Commented Oct 5, 2017 at 14:31
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    \$\begingroup\$ other note - anyone who wants to go this route and take a fiendish graft had better be able to consistently make a DC 15 will save, as you have to make one of those per day or give in to temptation and perform an evil act - pretty much guaranteed to lose you the VoP. \$\endgroup\$
    – Ben Barden
    Commented Oct 5, 2017 at 14:47

The Sage suggests that grafts count as possessions

The Dragon #343 column Sage Advice "Official Answers to Your Questions" includes the following exchange:

Do grafts (such as those from Fiend Folio) count as possessions for the purpose of taking a Vow of Poverty? If so, what happens to a creature with grafts who wants to take the feat? Should he cut off his arm or leg in order to take the feat?

The Sage recommends that grafts be considered “possessions” for the purpose of adjudicating the Vow of Poverty (to avoid abusing the spirit of the vow). Some grafts specifically describe how they may be removed (such as the aboleth grafts on page 208). In other cases, physical removal of the graft—which might well require amputation or the like—is almost certainly necessary.

For a variety of reasons, the game rules don’t go into detail about the effects of such “surgery.” Unless the DM is comfortable creating a set of house rules to handle such situations, the Sage recommends that the DM not worry about the grisly details, instead assuming that the PC survives the procedure without any long-term effects other than the obvious (a character without eyes is blind, for example, while a character missing a hand can’t wield a two-handed weapon). Of course, a regenerate spell solves even these problems. (83)

(The Sage at the time is Andy Collins.) As always, the Sage's advice is just that—advice—and a DM is welcome to take it or leave it, but sometimes it's useful to have a game's designer's opinion on such subjects.

And symbionts?

I suspect, based on that sentiment and the D&D Q&A Web column "10/18/2007" in which the Sage "strongly suggests that if you’re trying to find ways around the various Vow feats in, you may be missing the point of the feats," that symbionts would be much like grafts, but symbionts can sometimes be acquired through a prestige class, blur the line between creatures and items, and, while having a gp value for determining how much treasure the DM should be giving out, often don't have an actual, for-reals price. (Seriously, if a parasite latches on to your neck, is it a possession?) Ask the DM.

Note: So you know, this DM is of the similar opinion that the feat Vow of Poverty is for the vast majority of characters terrible—the benefits gained are far below what the creature could've otherwise bought and the vow itself costs a two feats to acquire—, and this DM would recommend a PC simulate a vow of poverty by just giving away whatever money the PC doesn't need to spend to continue doing his good works.


As usual, it wold be a DM call.

Vow prevents character from owning any possession with exceptions listed. Exceptions does not include grafts and symbionts. The only question left is "is graft a possessions?" - Given that "possessions" is not defined as a game term, we need to use common meaning of the word. And here it gets tricky. I see two ways:

  1. It has cost and is listed in equipment section, possibly even have some reselling value - so it is possession and forbidden. Just like owning a race horse would be, no reason that something living shouldn't be "possession".

  2. It's almost a body part, so not a "possessions".

From the game balance perspective, I would go for option 1. - Vow has a lot of bonuses designed to offset a lack of equipment normal for player at given level. Having them plus bonuses gold can buy would create overpowered character easily. But I see how some DMs could allow it.


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